Repeating history

Duterte with soldiers in Marawi on martial law anniversary
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There was hardly any question about it. The dominance of the Duterte “supermajority” in both houses of Congress made the one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao certain, and even the members of the political opposition in the House of Representatives and the Senate, who nevertheless voted against it, predicted congressional approval of President Rodrigo Duterte’s request.

Mr. Duterte’s Congressional allies had the numbers but apparently neither the welfare, peace of mind, safety or rights of the Mindanaoans and the country in mind, nor the legal justification on their side — or even a sense of history.

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Killing hope

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The killing of young people, minors and children that have been blamed on the police of the Duterte regime is not without precedent.

The same atrocities were committed by the then PC-INP (Philippine Constabulary Integrated National Police) and the military of which it was then a part during the Marcos terror regime, which even before the declaration of martial law in 1972 was already abducting and murdering youth activists. Both are crimes against the future that is the youth’s promise. There is a difference between the intent of one and that of the other, but their consequences are the same.
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Imminent danger

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Never mind the 2017 Duterte State of the Nation Address, which was replete with profanities, self-serving claims of current and future progress on various fronts, among them the regime’s brutal and failing war on drugs, and justifications for the use of unaccountable State violence. Take his so-called assurance that he won’t place the entire country under martial law with a reasonable amount of skepticism. All SONAs are after all political and since Commonwealth days have served the ends of every Philippine regime without exception.

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The past in the present

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If those who fear martial law are “living in the past,” it is because much of that past, with or without martial law, is still very much in the present. Human rights defenders are still under threat, and farmer leaders, indigenous people, protesters and political activists harassed and even killed, even as a brutal “war on drugs” that presumes guilt rather than innocence continues to claim dozens of lives every week at the hands of a police force emboldened by President Rodrigo Duterte’s frequent assurances of impunity, or exemption from punishment.

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